Wake Up and Reconsider a Worthwhile Idea

June 29, 2011 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

Following each sunset eventually comes a new sunrise, unless you’re talking about government policy. However, some federal requirements of the past may be worth seeing the light of day again. One such document is the Funding Report to the Congress.

The General Services Administration used to submit the report to Congress annually until 1999, which it was discontinued as a result of the Federal Reports Elimination and Sunset Act. In the report, the GSA would submit formulas combining data and statistics that agencies used to make award determinations.

Natalie Keegan, an analyst with the Congressional Research Service, last week told a House subcommittee that federal agencies do a poor job in making information available on funding decisions. While some agencies provide the number of applications received and number of grants awarded on their websites, other agencies do not, and most agencies do not publish the review panel scores used to make final award decisions.

“Oversight of federal agency grants administration activities is limited by the lack of transparency in the award process,” she said. “Without knowledge of the individual application score, it is impossible to determine the appropriateness of award decisions.”

When asked by the subcommittee if the Funding Report to Congress should be reinstated, Keegan said, “When considering transparency and federal grants, certainly an investigation into what information is available and what information is useful is something for Congress to evaluate. The report did provide a great deal of information about the specific calculations in these formulas and there isn’t anything available like this now. It’s up to Congress to determine if it needs that information.”

I agree. Congress should reconsider the benefits of the formula report to offer the public and grantees more information on funding determinations, which in turn could ensure that federal dollars are spent more wisely.

More information on the subcommittee hearing will be available in the August issue of the Federal Grants Management Handbook. Do you support reinstating the formula report? Are there other policies that have sunset that could be worth revisiting

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